Being a Game Master or a Dungeon Master is something that is a lot of fun, but it also can be a lot of work. But like everything in this era, there are tools and lifehacks out there to make your work as a DM much easier thanks to the community and sharing that exists on the Internet.
Today, I want to share 5 tools that I use as a DM to help me create great encounters quickly and let me focus more time on building out the larger story in my campaigns, instead of getting bogged down in the details that can overwhelm me in DM prep.
5 Must-Have Tools for DMs
1. Fast Character is a fantastic site when you need to create some NPCs quickly. For instance, I recently had a large group of adventurers come to the small town where my PCs are based. I had 12 characters I needed to generate and I knew their basics: name, class and level. In 15 minutes, I had the PDFs for each of those characters created, saved and ready to use when the time comes. It really is a pretty phenomenal site and process to fill in and round out characters on the fly.
2. D&D 5e Spellbook Generator is a site that can help DMs and PCs alike. As a DM, one of the things that I struggle with is managing NPC spell casters. It just becomes too much for me to keep track of all the details of all the spells; it becomes jumbled and I tend to overuse spells or just ignore limits altogether.
The 5e Spellbook Generator lets me choose the spells I need information for and collect them in one printable spell book as a PDF file. With a couple quick notes on spell DCs and spell slots, I suddenly can run magic based NPCs in a much easier fashion. Also, if you have PCs at your table who constantly struggle with their spell details, this site can create and save their information for you and them as well!
3. If you have a setting and need to find an adventure that takes place within some parameters, then I have to recommend Adventure Lookup to you. DM Matt Colville, who has an excellent YouTube Channel, commissioned the idea of this site, where people can go and put in particular details about various adventures and locations.
It is a sort of wiki dedicated to cataloging all the DnD and fantasy setting adventures ever made. While the site still has a ways to go, it is an excellent start for when you know you need a 5th level adventure set in the jungle for instance.
4. While Donjon has a ton of options for creating elements for your campaign, I primarily use it for this random loot generator. One of the last pieces in every encounter I prep is sorting out what my PCs will find after they murder-hobo the baddies they come up against. This site has some great tweaks and settings to help me get what I want and what makes sense.
Also, it makes it easy to put into a print out and hand it over to the player who runs the PCs loot Google document. (And seriously, as your PCs are leveling up, they need a Loot Google Document.) This site does a bunch of other things like generate spell sheets and random encounters as well, but this is the one use I have found it most helpful for.
5. Finally, when I created a game table with a television embedded as a playable surface, I knew that I needed to step up my game in terms of visuals and maps. While there are a lot of awesome sites out there, I had a ton of great success buying maps and packs of maps from 2-Minute Table Top.
While you can sponsor Ross McConnell on Patreon and gain access to new stuff, you can also purchase his previous work as well. If having high quality color maps matters to your group, you should check it out. And while the maps work great in my sessions with our TV table, they also work great in Fantasy Grounds and Roll20 too. As someone who is DMing Starfinder as well, Ross has recently done some space related themes and packs that are excellent (our campaign’s ship is using one of his designs)!
More Tools, Fewer Problems
Much like those found in your more traditional toolbox, these tools make some aspect of the DM’s prep work much quicker and easier. And their number and utility seems to grow each day. So while these are my Top 5 DM tools currently, I’d love to hear what’s serving you well behind the screen. So pop on over to our Facebook page or the RPG-focused Character Sheets group and let me know in the comments what your Top 5 looks like.